The “anti-lost strap”. The “walking harness”. The “hand belt”. The “wrist harness”. The “child harness”. The “safety harness”. The “backpack leash”. AKA a child leash. They come in many forms, shapes, sizes, and colors. And boy, are they a hot button issue.
In this blog post, I will refer to them as a leash, because plain and simple, that’s what they are.
I remember the first time I saw an adult with a child on a leash. I was in a mall, if my memory serves correctly, The Mall of America even, and I had to have been 4 or 5-years-old. It was an entirely foreign concept to me. I had never seen it before. I remember the adults I was with having some not so kind comments about it, which made sense to me.
I grew up thinking, and continued thinking well into adulthood, that leashing a child was lazy parenting and abusive to children. I kept this position on the topic until the tables turned.
Before I go any further, I want to talk about a story that inspired me to blog about this topic. I considered this topic in the past, but then felt maybe it wasn’t worth the controversy or feels. You see, blogging is a way for me to sit down and think, deal, and feel…feel intensely; really dig deep and share my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, I struggle to motivate myself to blog because I don’want to deal with the feels, even though I know how good it is for me to just do it.
It was all over the headlines the last week and a half or so. Maybe you saw it. (?) An autistic 6-year-old boy from North Carolina was at a park with his father and his father’s friend when he took off running and his father could not catch up and lost sight of him. They searched for him for days before finding his lifeless body in a marshy area in 2-3 feet of water. When I came upon this story and read it, I literally shed tears and my stomach sunk in a way that is hard to describe.
Autistic individuals have a tendency to bolt. I have mentioned this before in previous blog posts, as my son is a “bolter”. Also, drowning is the leading cause of death in children with autism. They do not fear water and do not understand the consequences of entering the water.
The first time my son bolted on me, he ended up well over 100 yards away from me at a dead run and did not respond at all to his name or anything else for that matter. Thankfully, his dad was able to catch up to him. It was scary and made me realize just how fast it can happen and how fast he can move!
The reason this hit close to home is because, as mentioned, my son bolts and does not fear bodies of water. Also, per his therapists, it is recommended that we use a wrist leash to give him some freedom while outdoors or in situations dangerous for “bolters”. It will give him more freedom and also give caregivers a break from carrying a curious wiggling always moving 35+ pound 2-year-old everywhere to keep him safe.
Yes, leashes have their dangers. A wrist leash can be dangerous in that if the child falls down and the leash is used to help assist standing it can dislocate the child’s shoulder or wrist. But anything can be dangerous. That’s why we have to do our research so we can use devices as they are meant to be used to avoid injury and accidents.
A child leash can be used as a helpful safety device or as a mechanism to show control. Obviously, I just want to be able to enjoy events and outings with my child and keep him safe. It’s not as easy as just keeping my eye on him. It is impossible to keep your eye on any one child all the time. Literally, all the time. My child requires constant overseeing to keep him safe, for now.
I did get a wrist leash for my autistic 2-year-old child. I did this to keep him safe.
I am already well aware of the stares and the looks I will receive because I used to give those looks and stare myself. It is so easy to judge and misunderstand until you come to a place where you find out that putting your child on a leash is literally the best thing for his safety in some situations.
I will do anything for my children. Anything. Even if it means looking like a lazy or domineering parent.
It is impossible to know someone’s situation, and this for me has been the perfect example of why we should not judge.
This isn’t the only situation I’ve come across in that my views have changed significantly. We live. We learn. We evolve.